It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.

- Lou Holtz

Research on Indian railways Loco-pilots 

At

Dr. Jignesh Khakha and Suvani Suri

Academic (Individual)

Sep'16 - Nov'16

Preface on Loco-pilots

 

​​Railways Drivers / Loco-Pilots are the most important person in who transport nearly 25 Million passengers and more than 2.8 Million Tons of freight daily with the help of 2,29,381 wagons, 59,713 coaches and more than 9,213 locomotive engines of various kinds (www.Indian railways, Wikipedia)​

Initial Research Question

How implementation of existing technologies in the loco engine for loco pilots can improve ease of operation and ensure better safety standards.

Methodology

- Desk research on Loco-pilots (Qualifications, tasks, requirements to be loco-pilots etc..)

- Semi-structured qualitative interviews

- Thematic analysis 
- Contextual research
- Writing Transcription and Open Coding
- Analysis and Synthesis

- Conceptualizing (Design interventions) 

- Wireframing and prototyping

- User testing and Experts review

 

The studies started with viewing lot of documentaries and knowing the history and Indian Railways. Few of the notable documentaries are

  • World's busiest railways https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6RKRey_Kzo

  • Indian Railways Documentaries 

  • The Nilgiri Mountain Railway 

  • Work-Life of Indian Railway's Drivers (Loco-Pilots) – IOSR IOSR Journal of Business and Management

 

Referring to documents on Skills required to be Railways drivers, loco-pilots working time schedules, task outline during driving  by Indian railways

 

Desk Research

Semi-Structured Interviews

Interviews were conducted at Indian railways training center at Gandhinagar, Gujarat to understand loco-pilots work-life and experience during driving.

 

Interview with Loco-pilots at Sabarmathi railway training center

Interviews Output 

 

I was able to understand in detail about the loco-pilots journey, duty protocols, challenges, locomotive startup sequence and key tasks. The synthesis data was summarized in user flows and mapping.

Below was a complete mapping of all the key focus area with details of tasks, limitations, how its presently done, detailed descriptions, protocols etc.. of loco-pilots during there journey.

User Study Video

How the change in logbooks medium for data management in the loco engine for loco pilots can improve ease of operation and ensure better safety standards.

 

Hypothesis

  1. Duty efficiency of the loco-pilot is suffered due to constant observations required in maintaining multiple tasks at a given time creating stress.

  2. Reducing the workload done by loco pilots in driving and diverting the focus in few areas will greatly help to further ensure error less driving.

  3. Efforts in centralization & digitalization of data management system will have an impact on all the system related to it in terms of various factors like time, the validity of data, pre-analysis, regular status, easy to maintain and record, reducing the labor etc....

 

Specific Aims

  1. Detailed Study of the functionality of logbooks and how its maintained in a course of the journey, its effects on the workload of the loco-pilot.

  2. What are the aims of recorded data in future and how is this being used?

  3. Exploring potential mediums where with the help of technologies or process in future can help to reduce the workload providing greater safety and easy operations.

 

Redefining the brief

Conduct this research to understand user's environment and observing what they do in practice. This lead to getting real insight into what a user may be expecting or need which can help them work more efficiently.

 

Traveling in Locomotive
Traveling in Locomotive
Logbooks
Loco-pilot Rest house

Interviews Output 

 

These contextual interviews were focused to understand about logbooks and how there were used at various stages.

  1. What are logbook and its importance?

  2. Rules and protocols related to logbooks?

  3. What are the challenges faced while note down the details in logbooks?

  4. What do you think if this process is automatic?

 

Insights like

  1. Recording the same data multiple times.

  2. Very short time to record the details.

  3. Chances of late data entry which can result in manipulated data.

  4. This can result in missing the signal while recording

  5. Increases cognitive task load on loco-pilots.

Logbook area

Indian Railway Locomotive cabin walkthrough

Contextual research

Design Intervention

Stage-1  (Introducing Digital Logbooks in Locomotives)

Introducing digital logbooks in locomotives will have a lot of advantages like

  1. Reduces cognitive load of the loco-pilots

  2. Accurate data fed via sensors with chances of  feeding manually

  3. Reduces 78% of the loco-pilots task in entering data.

  4. No data tampering can be done

  5. Digital quantitative data can be subjected to data analysis for insights

 

Stage-2  (Centralized Locomotives Data Management System)

  1. These records can be synced with the central system via online

  2. The central system can track and monitor in real time.

  3. The maintenance shed can have pre-access to the records and plant for the same in advance.

  4. Engine statics can be analyzed by doing data analysis

Logbook Placement
Logbook Usage
European Train Cabin

end

 

Study of the present locomotive cabin

Indian railways have wide different types of locomotive, basically categorized as Electric locomotive & Diesel locomotive. There are frequent upgrades in Locomotive cabin desk. below are few examples of cabin desks.

Locomotive cabin interface

 

Control Desk

These control desk primary consists of Acceleration/ brake/ gear controls, Gauges/ meter readings, indicators, buttons & knobs.

 

Fig.1 control desk is completely analog interface panel. All the readings are displayed in analog meters, hooter/ switches are push button switches, control knobs, toggle switches etc...

 

Fig.2 control desk is being newly installed in locomotives. Most of the readings display are through TFT screens with few analog gauges. The TFT screen can be navigated using panel buttons. Apart from the push buttons, knobs, toggle switches are used.

 

Control panel

Control panels are behind the control desk. These main functions are during startup of the engine, monitoring parameters, troubleshooting etc... These consists of TFT screen with controller & buttons, MCB’s, Push buttons, 2-way knobs, meters, LED indicators, switches etc.

Study of European train cabin

European freight railways system consists of both diesel & electric locomotives. Mostly handled by the single driver. The cabin controls are highly automated (ex: breaking system, speed regulation ...)

 

The live parameters data is displayed through screens on control desk & stored in the control system. These are used for maintenance. This railway system management is completely different from Indian railways, the signal system in some places are done by wireless.

Study on EMEF (Portuguese Railway maintenance company)

Logbook Screen

 

TFT screens with the controller can be embedded on Control desk with logbook programming. All the Run-Time readings can be automated & uploaded. This will simplify loco-pilot work greatly.

Screen with inbuilt buttons is customized for logbook function. Flow & interaction are explained below

Wireframes

Logbook interface 

Checklist

 

Items are to be always checked before handover/ takeover. Checklist of items is important for safety. During the shift, changeover checklist would be a priority before driving.

 

As checklist are important, the feedback from it is also important in an emergency. Checklist state is already predefined (eg. Ok, NO, N/A). As checklist are verified before the start of the engine, its panel can be placed beside starting up paned where MCB’s are placed. Toggle switch’s along with LED indicators can be used to represent the status.

 

Using controller status can be recorded when there is change w.r.t time in the system. The LED indicators will show the status of the checklist. At last during shift changeover, the present locopilot turn on the switch towards handover and same will be uploaded in controller w.r.t time. During shift takeover, the locopilot reviews the status and turns switch towards the takeover.

Checklist

 

Items are to be always checked before handover/ takeover. Checklist of items is important for safety. During the shift, changeover checklist would be a priority before driving.

 

As checklist are important, the feedback from it is also important in an emergency. Checklist state is already predefined (eg. Ok, NO, N/A). As checklist are verified before the start of the engine, its panel can be placed beside starting up paned where MCB’s are placed. Toggle switch’s along with LED indicators can be used to represent the status.

 

Using controller status can be recorded when there is change w.r.t time in the system. The LED indicators will show the status of the checklist. At last during shift changeover, the present locopilot turn on the switch towards handover and same will be uploaded in controller w.r.t time. During shift takeover, the locopilot reviews the status and turns switch towards the takeover.

Logbook Screen

Proposed Interface

Challenges 

  1. Being student convincing authorities and getting permission was challenging, but I learned a lot about hacks how to get my work done.

  2. Initially, the loco-pilots were not open to discussions as they felt insecure about the interviews being used against them. But I am able to convince them and there afterward they were open to questions.

  3. As this was an academic project there were a lot of constraints like time, deliverables etc.. and process I need to go through for getting permissions etc..​​

Learnings

This was a good opportunity as an individual project in which I need to plan the whole design process to be carried out, framing questioners for interviews, getting permissions, ideating and conceptualization, research analysis, findings and insights etc..

 

I had an opportunity to propose this concept to Sabarmathi training institute head and railway design cell at NID in collaboration with Indian railways.